Archive for January, 2011
Can any business afford to ignore a sales opportunity these days; apparently the answer is yes.
Having worked in the marketing and promotions industry for well over a decade now I’m quite familiar with the simple process of placing orders for things like advertising space and print for point-of-sale. On the whole I’ve always found it to be a quite straight forward task. The golden rule is to set out clearly, in a language that suppliers are familiar with, the exact specifications of your needs. This ensures you get an accurate quote, the supplier recognises that you know what you want and in the vast majority of cases you get a good quality of service at a price that meets your budget. Everyone’s happy.
Perhaps this is changing and now I need to learn that the very first thing a written request for a quote requires is a clear statement at the very top, which reads:
‘THIS IS A LIVE SALES OPPORTUNITY – I’M ASKING YOU FOR A QUOTE BECAUSE I’M READY TO BUY’
You might detect a modest hint of sarcasm in my comment above and that would be correct. I’ve recently approached four local printers with to request a quote for a reasonable size print run. I’ve been shocked and disappointed that three of the four haven’t even bothered to reply. One did contact me to ask for some clarification on the copy but I’ve not heard a dickie bird since then. Thankfully the one printer who did respond was quick off the mark and offered me a great deal on a larger print run. Sadly his best offer doesn’t suit the requirement as it stands, so I’m still left looking. The other three seem to have completely passed by this sales opportunity.
Let me say quite clearly that I’ve often found printers to be very easy to work with, very professional and frequently willing to work hard to deliver a great service and build a good supplier/client relationship. Anyone in the print industry will know just how competitive this marketplace is. So this most recent experience is a slight shock and disappointment. Of course, the lack of effective follow-up on sales leads isn’t unique to one industry, or even the Business-2-Business market, we find it constantly in the Business-to-Consumer market as well.
I’m sincerely hoping that this recent experience is nothing more than a minor blip and purely coincidental. I could also look back at myself and remember that ‘Communication is about the result we get’ as I tell my own clients. This is always a good place to start. Did I really make it clear as to what my needs were, or the fact that order is quite urgent? In this instance I feel confident that I’ve done both of these effectively, so this experience leaves me bemused. The order itself isn’t mammoth but it will be the first of many repeat orders, so my Average Lifetime Customer Value could be quite high.
I’m sharing this experience with one clear objective; I want to provoke you to go back to your own business and confirm, beyond all reasonable doubt, that your own sales process is completely water-tight. I suggest you test the system, perhaps with a mystery shopper, to make sure that when an inbound sales enquiry arrives at your door it always enters a process that results in a clear and defined outcome. Then go one step further than this. Make sure you have some back-check process in place to ensure that every call, email or face-to-face request has been fully dealt with and ensure there is evidence to back this up. In every case there should be some record of how the request was concluded; did the prospect go ahead and place an order, or did they decline, and if so do you know why? What will you do to maintain contact with them and perhaps find a way to win the next sales opportunity they present?
In a time when so many businesses really need to ensure profitable sales continue to flow and increase, there can be no excuse for not having even the most simple of systems to ensure that every crumb of opportunity gets picked up and dealt with effectively. They also need to demonstrate that they’re open for business and ready to serve.
So, will I get my print order completed in time; yes, I’m sure of it and perhaps a few red faces might be the price worth paying to be made aware that something isn’t quite working as it should be.
Please don’t ever find yourself in the same situation.
The F-word is Back!
Nope, it’s not another TV series with our favourite Celebrity Chef who suffers with Tourettes and I’m not about to launch into tirade of inappropriate language. Mother wouldn’t like it! It is that F-word that seems to raise it’s head all too often and only eleven days into the New Year I’ve had two clients talk about it in the space of a few hours… I’m talking about F-O-C-U-S and the need for it in every business.
There will always be a never-ending line of business experts ready to give you their best advice and perhaps tell you that there is a quick way to fame and unlimited riches. Certainly, there are some basic business tactics that will help you cut the learning curve in half and propel your results but there is one fundamental element that is much overlooked; the ability to apply real focus.
Driving a business forward, especially in such ‘interesting times’, is not for the faint-hearted but fortune does indeed favour the brave. The quality that seems to be common to all successful individuals, be it in business or any other field, is the ability to apply near-pathological levels of focus to the task at hand. That may strike you as a strange concept; excess is never a good thing (or is it?!), so why is FOCUS my top prescription for a quantum shift in your results? Well, because I’ve seen too many examples that prove the argument…
Just stop and think about it for yourself for a moment; consider all the people who you could list, according to your own definition, as being successful, or better still, hyper-successful. What attributes could be linked to all of them? I’m sure focus would be high on the list.
I think most people would agree with me in that Albert Einstein is probably regarded as one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the human race, and yet the quiet, modest man, who helped shape the world we live in today, was famously quoted as having said “I’m not smarter than anyone else, I just stick with a problem longer than most other people”. His message was clear; it’s not just about the level of your intellect that will determine your success, it’s your ability to apply real focus when it’s required.
So how do we find this elusive level of concentration and when? Any situation where you really need to deal with a challenging task requires high levels of focus. Perhaps you’re creating a new product or service, or maybe planning a new marketing campaign. Or you might be be aiming to push hard on sales performance for the next quarter. Of course people have different ways of finding focus but here are my top 3 tips:
1) Make space to focus; this might sound obvious but it’s vital to lay a good foundation. Space in terms of physical space and time. Make sure you create time to dedicate yourself to the task at hand. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can multi-task and allow interruptions.
2) Create mental space too. Having a quiet place to work and allowing yourself uninterrupted time to focus are vital but you must also allow yourself to remove other distractions. Mental space is great way to liberate yourself from the daily tasks and ‘allow’ yourself the fully-deserved pleasure (and believe me, it really is a pleasure!) to ignore other priorities. Create a temporary island and jump aboard for a few hours, or even a day or two. Leave everything behind for a while and know that it will all be dealt with soon enough.
3) Find out WHY it is important to do the best job with this task. The WHY is so much more important than the HOW, or the WHEN, etc. Among the very many valuable lessons my own mentor taught me was that “when the WHY is strong enough, the HOW will become easy”. When you think you’re able to articulate the WHY, go one level deeper and really identify WHY it is really important to you.
Start using the F-word in your daily business diet in 2011 and you’ll see a positive change, guaranteed. You’ll feel a greater sense of control, you’ll achieve higher quality results and you’re going to stretch your abilities and help yourself grow.
10th Jan 2011
A well worn phrase that people of a certain again (like me!) will have heard many a time from parents and relatives in the past. Come to think of it, isn’t it interesting that all these old clichés that our parents repeat, and that we used to scoff at, turn out to be sound advice after all?!
I’ve found it fascinating to watch how so many businesses have moved their price position over the past year or so. With the economy in very sensitive times and now with a VAT increase to factor into the ever-changing fiscal landscape, there seems to be a theme emerging that suggests the only way to win customers is to discount prices.
Slash and burn tactics on your pricing are all very well and good… if you’re a market trader, selling poor quality items that people will only buy when the price point is ludicrously low. For the serious business person, attention to price point is even more critical right now and any changes need to be thought through with real care.
In seminars and with clients I’m constantly explaining to that price point is just like any other business-critical factor; you need to have evidence to make decisions on changing it. The biggest myth of all is that “if I reduce my prices I’ll win more new clients”.
Of course this could be entirely true. If you’re over valuing your offer and if the marketplace doesn’t share your perception, then you’ll find it hard to attract buyers. However it’s dangerous thinking to believe that all consumers focus on price as a priority.
There are certain products, commodities like fuel, that are price critical but in the majority of cases the prospective consumer is looking not at price but at value. If you’re facing a challenge over increases in VAT and scratching your head to figure out where you can cut costs just to keep your price point static, then you should consider taking a very different perspective.
I’ve always taught clients the concept of stacking up value. It’s a remarkably simple principle, so simple that very few business owners ever do it. So here’s my sixty-second buzz session on it!
Before you rush to the calculator to work out how you’re going to factor in a new VAT rate, or rather, before you just decide to pass on the increase and blame Mr Osborne, stop and take a fresh look at your product or service. Then do two simple things:
- Break down the product or service into the separate parts and assign a nominal value to each. But rather than focusing on the £s value of each consider the benefit of each to the consumer. For example, if you offer free delivery look at how that saves the customer time and provides convenience. You should end up with a more comprehensive summary of the features and benefits and know how to articulate these – this is marketing!
- Then look at simple and low cost ways that you could add extra value to the product or service. The trick here is to add value that costs you less that the perceived value to the consumer. Write up the new added benefits in a way that will get your customer thinking.
This simple process is something every business should be doing in their six monthly review (what do you mean you don’t do a six monthly review?!). Essentially you’ll increase the perceived value in your product. If you’ve got fierce competition, then look carefully at what value you can add to your product/service to make it stand out, without cost you much or even anything.
Above all, don’t rush to chop your prices about and don’t lay the blame for falling sales at the feet of a new VAT rate, as easy as that might be. Of course the good news is that if you take this more tactical approach the chances are that your competition wont be and you could end up grabbing more of share of the marketplace as a result!
One final thought on this subject; a student on our PUSH Marketing Academy recently learned this very concept and came rushing back a few days later to tell me how he had used value-stacking in a call with an enquiry. In the space of ten minutes he turned a request for voluntary services into an £800 sale and confirmed booking!
5th January 2011